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The Aftermath: UFC 103

crocopI was surprised, and a little bit disappointed that Rich Franklin didn’t at least attempt to take the fight to the ground. Although I picked Franklin to win in this fight, I had no idea he was planning on standing and banging with Belfort. That gameplan made little, to no sense to me. Vitor has explosive punching power, there’s no questioning that, and few thought that Franklin was going to be able to defeat “The Phenom” in a striking competition. The outline to beat Belfort was there, most notably in Vitor’s bout with Tito Ortiz at UFC 51: Get him off of those feet where he can’t drop those big bombs, and grind him out. Vitor fought his fight, and was the better man on Saturday evening, I just feel like Rich may have went about fighting him the wrong way.

How does beating Franklin at 195 pounds justify an immediate title shot at 185 pounds? In my opinion it doesn’t. Definitely not over guys like Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt or Yushin Okami. All of those guys have at least fought at middleweight in the UFC before. When has Vitor fought at middleweight in the Octagon before again? Oh, that’s right, never. So it makes all the sense in the world to give him a shot at Silva before the previously noted challengers because it’s a sexier match-up, right? Wrong. Belfort can get in line. I’d love to see him face off with any of the guys I mentioned before, but unless Henderson is facing Anderson in his next bout, I see a move up in weight in his immediate future. Here’s my suggestion: How about we set up Marquardt vs. Belfort right now, winner fights Silva when he’s fit to return from elbow surgery. Henderson goes up to 205, and Okami learns how to be more marketable. Problem solved.

It’s official folks, Cro Cop was overrated. Lets be real, the Cro Cop we came to fear and love is no more. As a matter of fact, once feared knockout artist has come a long way from the period in time where he was indiscriminately kicking men in their skulls, leaving a trail of unconscious bodies in his wake. The last time Mirko delivered one of those highlight reel head kicks most fans have come to associate with him against a much smaller Wanderlei Silva in 2006, and the next one down was over five years ago. Think about that people. It’s been over five years since has knocked anyone his size out with his trademark left high kick. Before that it was Igor Vovchanchyn and Dos Caras Jr. A far cry from the top dogs in the UFC’s heavyweight division of today. Are there still fights Cro Cop can win? Certainly. Will he ever be a champion in the UFC, absolutely not. The riddle has been solved. Cro Cop needs to fight at his pace and doesn’t respond well to being bullied. Just another fallen hero from the glory days of PRIDE FC, and a testament to the constant evolution of this amazing sport we have had the good fortune to watch develop.

I still can’t seem to figure out why so little emphasis was put on dragging Paul Daley to the ground on Martin Kampmann’s end. I know he tried to take him down once early on, but after that it was like Kampmann just settled in to trading with Daley. Horrible idea. If there’s one thing Daley is good at, it’s knocking his opponents out. I don’t think it would be a good idea for anyone to stand and bang with the heavy handed UK knockout artist at 170 pounds, period. After Kampmann landed his first strike of significance, a hard knee in the clinch, he made the fatal mistake of thinking Daley was wobbled, which he wasn’t. Now I know that Paul has incredible takedown defense so I’m not saying that it would have been easy for Kampmann to drag him down, but there’s no question that he should have at least put some effort into it. Live and learn, Martin is an incredibly talented fighter and I’m sure he’ll be back better than ever.

Anthony Johnson vs. Paul Daley anyone? Make this fight happen Joe Silva, please! The win over Kampmann made Daley instantly relevant at welterweight. After Johnson puts a beating on Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104 he’s going to be in a good place to challenge for the title as well. Now I’m not telling you how to do your job, but if I was in your shoes here’s what I do: I have Mike Swick fight Matt Hughes with the winner facing GSP for the title. In the meantime I have the winner of Johnson vs. Daley face the winner of Fitch vs. Almeida. From there, the winner faces the champion. Just an idea.

Josh Koscheck answered a lot of questions by executing the gameplan he did against Frank Trigg. Now I’m not going to say that Paulo Thiago got lucky when he dropped Kos with that big uppercut at UFC 95, but I do think that Koscheck “just got caught”. It’s not an excuse for being knocked out, but more of a reality at competing at this level of competition. Koscheck was executing his gameplan and winning the bout with Thiago before he got stopped. However, the fact that he got dropped made many, including myself, question his stand-up arsenal. A newly developed tool for the lifelong wrestler I had just began to have a certain level of faith in following his impressive stoppages of Dustin Hazelett and Yoshiyuki Yoshida. The fact that Josh chose to keep the fight standing and bang Trigg out let me know that Koscheck truly understands the circumstances of his last loss. If he would have came out and just took Trigg to the ground, which he could have, it would have made me think that he was second guessing his stand-up. Second guessing yourself in any area of MMA is no place to be once that cage door slams shut. Will Koscheck fight like a kickboxer for the rest of his days in the Octagon? I highly doubt it. He’s a smart guys and knows he has to keep his opponents guessing to obtain success in the cage in the long haul. A win over Trigg in the fashion that it came was the best possible scenario for Kos and his confidence. I fully expect for him to challenge for the title before the end of 2010.

Hermes Franca looked absolutely horrible. In more ways than one. First off, I don’t remember seeing a lightweight fighter rocking man-boobs outside of some shady regional shows in ages. Definitely not in the UFC. His atrocious physical condition combined with the creepy purple hair created a combination that served to transform Hermes into a human eyesore in HD. His punches were bush league. Sure, Franca hits like a truck, but his boxing seems to have stopped evolving in grade school. Watching Franca swing for the fences with those sloppy haymakers looked more like something I’d see in a Tough Man competition than something I’d expect to see in the highest level of professional fighting on the planet. I for one, won’t be looking forward to watching Franca fight in the near future.

How many of the UFC’s lightweights could make 145? Seriously, I think there’s no question that Franca should be at featherweight, and it seems like Griffin could possibly make the cut as well. Unless the UFC opens up a 145 pound division in the near future, we will continue to have guys fighting a weight class too heavy because of the increased opportunities that come from fighting in the UFC. Furthermore, I’d be shocked if we didn’t see guys like Urijah Faber, Mike Brown and Jose Aldo making the jump to 155 sooner rather than later.

Kudos to Tyson Griffin for not only finishing a fight, but finishing a guy like Franca. It’s a well known fact that Hermes is as tough as they come, having only been stopped by strikes once in his career that includes bouts with many of the best fighters in the world at lightweight. Not only did Griffin finish the bout, but he showed tremendous killer instinct by choosing to stick with his ground and pound assault on the hurt Franca after the dangerous submission fighter briefly went for a leg submission. Griffin could have easily bounced out of the situation and played the safe role, but he chose to commit to the beatdown he was laying on Franca, and because of that he scored one for the highlight reel.

The convincing win over Cole Miller made Efrain Escudero an instant force in the UFC’s lightweight division. If Miller ended up with his hand raised at the end of the bout he would have instantly been thrust into match-ups with some of the top dogs at 155 pounds. While Escudero should still have another fight or so in front of him before he starts getting those fights, a win over a guy like Miller propelled him up the lightweight ladder faster than the majority of the TUF winners in the past. Efrain fought his fight and showed why the ability to keep the fight where you want it to be is just so pivotal in this day and age. Miller’s best chance at winning this fight was on the ground. Escudero completely took that away from him by being the more powerful and dominant wrestler. He forced Miller into a stand-up fight without having to stuff a single takedown, making the first knockout of Escudero’s career look like business as usual to the constantly evolving 155 pounder. Nine submissions in twelve wins tells you that Escudero is quickly shaping up to be an incredible force in the UFC’s lightweight division of tomorrow.

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